Graciela Tiscareño-Sato is a U.S. Air Force veteran and former navigator with quite an extraordinary career. She was in aircrews that flew over Baghdad during Operation Desert Storm, and has flown high-altitude missions at supersonic speeds.
She can now add bilingual children’s book author to her resume.
Her new book, “Good Night Captain Mama,” which hit shelves on July 3, captures the essence of her son’s wonder and admiration for her career as an U.S. Air Force navigator. A portion of all sales of the book will support women military veterans through the Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship (V-Wise) training program, operated by the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University.
“It was really about him seeing me in my uniform,” says Tiscareño-Sato, of the moment that inspired her to write the book the night before Veteran’s Day in 2010. “I was trying on my uniform because his school’s veterans event was the next day and I was going to speak…It was a conversation about ‘What is this?’ and ‘What is that for?’…It was him who said, ‘Good night Captain Mama’.”
She says as a mom, it was important for her to answer her son’s “why?,” as well as for all children.
“My dream is to have this book in every pre-school in America,” says Tiscareño-Sato. “Every year for Veteran’s Day, the teacher always pulls down a book of elderly men holding a flag in a parade. That’s not okay with me, because it doesn’t represent me. This book will represent other women like me that serve.”
This is also the reason the decorated Latina veteran decided to make the book bilingual.
“By putting Spanish in there, it shows everybody is patriotic and everybody is American,” says Tiscareño-Sato. “This is making a statement that you can speak Spanish and be in the service.”
Tiscareño-Sato was the only woman in her Air Force navigator training group and graduated in the top 15 percent of the class. She says she hopes the book will inform little girls that a career in the military is a profession they can dream about.
“It’s important to me that our kids hear about it through someone who was there.” The former pilot got her degree from the University of California-Berkeley through the military and entered the Air Force as an officer. “I used to fly a flying gas station…my job was to get together with other airplanes at the exact time so that we could rendezvous with the receivers – meet up and connect and give them the gas they need.”
She explains her job as a navigator involved a lot of math.
“I had to do my calculations while flying 400 miles an hour,” says Tiscareño-Sato, explaining this might excite girls about STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and math). “I’m a global citizen who has lived on four continents.”
Tiscareño-Sato is also an author and keynote speaker on leadership and environmental entrepreneurship. Now a mother of three, Tiscareño-Sato is active in her children’s school and is already thinking about sequels to “Good Night Captain Mama.”
“That same night I wrote the first one, I thought, ‘What else can we do going forward?,’” she says. “Why can’t she take her kids all over the world?”
She plans on making a travel adventure series, including educational information about other countries, with the help of her in-house assistants — her two daughters and son.
“He saw the advance copy back in April, and he was just way excited that he inspired a book,” says Tiscareño-Sato about her son. “He just held it and didn’t say anything. He flipped through the whole book, and he said, ‘Where are the sisters?’ So we added a text revision because of him which mentioned his sisters.”
She also had the help of illustrator, Linda Lens, whose own father was a Latino veteran.
“In June of last year, Linda and I met in a park to talk about the book,” says Tiscareño-Sato, about the beginning of the 13 months it took to complete her labor of love. “Now, I would like to see Scholastic distribute this.”